(Note: Sorry for the massive wait between reviews, too busy pretending to have friends)
There comes a day in every metalcore kid’s musical career when they must put down their neon rainbow merch and synth-pad and briefly pretend to be mature. Or something that’s pretending to be mature, but is actually just as interesting as manually proof reading a dictionary. If neither of these things are done then, I hate to break to you, but you’re probably already in Alesana. Thankfully, Iwrestledabearonce have simply taken the genuine maturity route.
In fact they sound like an entirely different band from what they once were. And with only one original member remaining, they essentially are a different band. Hail Mary is presented to us as the total antithesis of their previous records, which all had the colourful synths and silliness that earned them their original infamy. This time around, almost all the bells and whistles are completely gone. This album is essentially just a deathcore/mathcore fusion, with very little in the way of electronics or even clean vocal melody. And yet, the band’s eclectic style still feels mostly intact. The chaos is still present, but it’s never sounded more organised and controlled. That might sound like Iwrestledabearonce are compromising, but a quick listen to any one of these 14 tracks should quickly dispel any doubts.
One thing to immediately note is how tirelessly unforgiving this album is throughout. Songs like ‘Gift of Death’ and ‘Curse The Spot’ never let up, but manage to maintain some catchiness. This is probably the bands most promising talent. There are thousands upon thousands of bands on the internet who can make heavier sounding breakdowns and an the play that generic deathcore sweep a little bit faster, but couldn’t write a memorable hook if you held their 9 string Ibanez at gunpoint. So whilst Iwrestledabearonce’s music is definitely abrasive and full of flashy playing from all musicians involved, it ultimately revolves around their song-writing abilities. And this is why they succeed.
Hail Mary is certainly a little front loaded and a bit bloated as a whole, but there are no explicitly filler tracks. And with all this talk of simplification, it is worth noting that what experimentation is here sounds great. ‘Remain Calm’ brings some tortured but eerily atmospheric guitar effects, whilst ‘Doomed To Fall – Pt. 2’ brings a total change of pace from the intensity and moves into more reverb-y, quiet territory. On the other end of the brutality scale, ‘Killed To Death’ shows the band at their most grindcore yet. As per usual, a little more in the way of exploration would have been nice. Avoiding pop rap and seagull sound effects is perfectly understandable, but tantalising us with the possibility of serious progression is unbearably sadistic. Not only is it annoying to a curious listener, but it also highlights how formulaic this album can be. Almost every song on the album is a 3 minute math/deathcore bludgeoning sessions, which is all well and good, but it can begin to feel a little monotonous after a while.
Minor complaints aside, Hail Mary is an excellent demonstration of a once immature kiddy-core band growing up and coming into their own. It may not be totally original, but it has a sledgehammer subtlety to it that is genuinely quite charming. Those who still regularly don their ‘Metal Just Got Gay’ shirt might be somewhat disappointed by this one, but anyone else should immediately pick this up.
Highlights: ‘Gift of Death’, ‘Remain Calm’, ‘Curse The Spot’
Similar to: The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, I Set My Friends On Fire, Rolo Tomassi